17 PRETTIEST VILLAGES AND TOWNS IN LAKE GARDA, ITALY + INFO & TIPS FOR A TIMELESS TRIP
Planning a trip to Lake Garda? Excellent choice! Want to see some of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda? Splendid idea! I have here just the perfect article for you with all the information to the two questions in addition to so much more and you are certain to have a fabulous time.
Lake Garda is one of the most dazzling regions in Northern Italy and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The region has a great deal to offer everyone. From tranquility, hospitality, mountain and water activities along with culture and cuisine to just simple pure fun. With over 50 picturesque towns and villages to visit, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out which of the hamlets and towns are worth visitng. This is especially so, if you are a first time visitor and want to experience some of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda. Where would you go and what to see in these towns that offers so much…
In this guide about the prettiest towns in Lake Garda, I cover the 17 cutest and best towns in Lake Garda that are worth your time and these include some off-the-beaten path medieval villages also. I suggest an outline of what to do in the beautiful towns in Lake Garda which include historical and cultural sights as well as outdoor activities. Towards the end of this article I offer suggestions on where to go to experience the hues of traditional Italian flea markets along with sightseeing tips. With this guide, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect, where to go and the best ways to experience Lake Garda for timeless memories. This is the only guide you need about the prettiest towns in Lake Garda.
When we visited Northern Italy, we did a mini road trip in Lake Garda but found that taking ferry boats and guided tours worked best for us. While we did not visit all fifty or so villages and the prettiest towns in Lake Garda, we explored fewer places and experienced the majestic views which are truly unbelievably enchanting.
YOUR GUIDE TO THE PRETTIEST TOWNS IN LAKE GARDA
Here’s an overview of what’s covered in this article:
- What to expect when you visit Lake Garda;
- Weather and best time to visit Lake Garda;
- Driving in Lake Garda;
- Towns and Villages around Lake Garda, Italy;
- Which side of Lake Garda is the best? Eastern or Western Shore?
- Medieval Villages and Prettiest Towns in Lake Garda: southern, eastern, western and northern shores of Lake Garda;
- In sum…
- Lake Garda from the waters;
- Traditional Italian Markets in Lake Garda and when to see them;
- Accommodations in Lake Garda;
- Suggestions: Things to do on your Lake Garda trip;
- Travel tips for Lake Garda;
- Italy travel inspiration;
- What’s new on the blog.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN LAKE GARDA
In this region of astounding beauty, you can spend a couple of days or weeks in Lake Garda and you’ll find that each day offers plenty to do. Lake Garda has a scenic natural landscape, endearing old towns and villages to explore, along with plenty of timeless wanderlust opportunities. Any one of the towns makes a good base for exploring Lake Garda and there are great choices in accommodations at a variety of prices.
Villages and Towns
As the largest lake in Italy and known for its crystal clear waters along with its thermal baths, Lake Garda is one of the most popular holiday resorts in Italy.
Framed by the Italian Alps, Lake Garda and its shorelines are shared by three provinces: Veneto in the east, Lombardy in the west, and Trentino in the north. Important cities of Brescia and Milan are situated in the southwest whereas Verona and Venice in the southeast.
The shoreline is sprinkled with over fifty prettiest towns and villages. From the most celebrated towns of Sirmione and Peschiera in the southern shores along with the charms of Malcesina on the eastern shore. Riva del Garda in the north to the most characteristic gems of Canale di Tenno in Trentino along with Pieve di Tremosine in the west. You will find all about these beautiful towns in this article.
Lake Garda’s landscape is rich and diverse with mountains in the north, and wooded hills of beech and oak towards the south, as well as pebble beaches and crystal clear aqua waters.
Wherever you go in the mountains, you’ll see stunning sceneries and views of chestnut and lemon trees, palms and olive groves.
There are countless historical sites. From UNESCO Heritage Sites and ancient Roman ruins, to castles and villas. Little medieval villages hidden from the buzz of lakeside towns have plenty of stories to tell and offer an insight into the simplicity of life itself.
Outdoor and adventure enthusiasts will find a plethora of activities at hand. Lake Garda is one of the best places for sailing, and windsurfing. You could also indulge in paragliding or hand-gliding.
If water activities are not up your alley, you can go walking, hiking, mountain biking, play golf, or have a hair-raising roller-coaster experience at a theme park. Weaved into any or all of these holiday activities, you can also simply spend a couple of days of dolce far niente in the healing waters of a thermal spa or by the many beaches dotted around its shores.
All of these and more, in a magnificently stunning scenic location you can imagine.
In the land of pizza and pasta, the Italian culinary delights in Lake Garda go beyond that. Fish features highly on their menu and you must try at least one fish of the lake dish. The region is famous for its tortellini, cheese, olive oil and award winning wines, both red and white which you must absolutely try during your visit.
When you travel north to the region of Trentino, you get to experience something uniquely wholesome. Something quite different to pizza and pasta. Dumplings (commonly known as gnocchi), polenta, carne salada (corned beef) and salami are the most savoured dishes in this region.
Before you leave town, be sure to try the surprisingly refreshing ‘Cedrata’, a lemony sparkling thirst-quencher with a hint of sourness. Loved by the Italians but its little known outside of Italy.
Recommended read: Complete guide to 11 of the finest Garda Wines and Food Pairings.
Public Transport in Lake Garda
Exploring Lake Garda is made possible by several transport options and it is easy to navigate even if it is your first visit. You could take the train, bus, ferry, hire a motorboat or a car.
Trains serve the southern region of Lake Garda, to the towns of Desenzano and Peschiera. Public buses serve most towns around the lake and it might be convenient to use buses to reach the northern region of Lake Garda.
WEATHER AND BEST TIME TO VISIT LAKE GARDA, ITALY
Lake Garda can be visited at any time of the year due to its Mediterranean-like climate. Generally, Lake Garda’s climate is mild and pleasant throughout the year, with warm summers and mild winters.
The summer months of June, July, and August are the warmest and sunniest, with average temperatures ranging from 23°C to 29°C (73°F to 84°F). The winter months of December, January, and February are the coolest and wettest, with average temperatures ranging from 1°C to 8°C (34°F to 46°F).
Best time to visit Lake Garda
The best time to visit Lake Garda depends on what you plan to do during your visit. Here is an overview of the best time to visit Lake Garda:
The peak season in Lake Garda is from June to August, when the weather is at its warmest and the lake is perfect for swimming and water sports. However, this is also the busiest time of the year, and the towns and beaches can be crowded with tourists. Accommodations can be more expensive, and it may be necessary to book well in advance which I’d highly recommend.
The months of April, May, September, and October are considered the shoulder season, and they are a great time to visit Lake Garda. The weather is still mild and pleasant, and there are fewer crowds. This is a great time to explore the area’s many hiking and cycling trails, or to take a leisurely boat ride around the lake.
Best time for outdoor activities in Lake Garda
If you’re interested in outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, or water sports, the best time to visit Lake Garda is in the spring and autumn. The weather is mild and comfortable, and the crowds are smaller, making it easier to enjoy the outdoors.
If you’re interested in cultural events and festivals, summer is the best time to visit, as there are many festivals and events that take place during this time.
Just so you know, some water activities and tours to the Dolomites are not available from late November onwards.
DRIVING IN LAKE GARDA
If your vacation to Lake Garda allows for several days of sightseeing, you may be contemplating driving around the lake. If so, you may want to get your vehicle from Discover Cars who offer a good selection with flexible terms.
Driving around Lake Garda can be a beautiful and scenic experience as the lake is surrounded by stunning mountain panorama. In this way, you can visit some of the adorable villages tucked onto the hillsides along the way.
Your journey around the lake can be done in a day. The main Gardesana road loops around the entire lake. The distance around Lake Garda is 158 km (98 miles). On average, it can take around three hours to drive around the entire lake with no stops. With stops for scenic views, meals and exploring the villages, as well as navigating the narrow, winding roads and hairpin turns, your journey around the lake will take longer, perhaps between six and eight hours. That said, driving around Lake Garda is an experience worth doing but know that you may not get to see all of the charming and prettiest towns in Lake Garda in a day.
You are probably best to combine driving (if you decide to do so) with taking a ferry boat. With both modes of transport, you get to experience more of Lake Garda. Otherwise, I’d suggest getting around Lake Garda on a boat and exploring on foot when you reach a destination.
WHICH SIDE OF LAKE GARDA IS BEST?
Eastern or Western Shore
The towns and villages in Lake Garda are sprinkled on both sides of the shore. If you are wondering which side of the shore is best, here is a synopsis for you:
The Eastern Shore of Lake Garda
The eastern shore of Lake Garda has an extraordinary and a varied landscape characterised by mountains, hills, and plains. It’s a dramatic scene where the mountains rise steeply from the water’s edge and the slopes are covered in dense forests of beech, oak, and chestnut trees. An area providing a haven for a variety of wildlife including deer, boar, and birds of prey.
This side of the lake is popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and rock climbing.
The eastern shore is also home to charming towns such as Malcesine, Garda, and Bardolino, which offer beautiful lakeside promenades, medieval architecture, and excellent local cuisine.
The eastern shore is well-connected to the cities of Verona and Venice by road and rail, making it easy to explore the region.
The Western Shore
Lake Garda’s western shore is flatter and offers a more relaxed atmosphere. This side is known for its citrus groves, olive trees, and charming towns such as Limone sul Garda, Salò, and Gargnano.
The western shore also offers several opportunities for water sports such as windsurfing, sailing, and kiteboarding. The towns on the western shore are well-connected by ferry, making it easy to explore the lake.
So, which side of Lake Garda is best?
It is a difficult choice to make. Both shores offer a unique perspective of Lake Garda which must be experienced. Ultimately, which side of the shore is best depends on your personal preferences and what you’re looking for in a vacation. Both sides offer stunning scenery, charming towns, and excellent food and wine, so you can’t go wrong with either choice.
So, to help you figure out where to go and which towns to visit in Lake Garda, I have included villages and towns from both sides of the shores. This guide is all you need in Lake Garda for your timeless steps.
MEDIEVAL VILLAGES AND PRETTIEST TOWNS IN LAKE GARDA
Below, you shall find my selection of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda which are truly remarkable and worth making the trip for. If you see these most beautifully preserved villages and the nicest towns on Lake Garda, be rest assured that you have seen and experienced the best of Lake Garda.
PRETTIEST TOWNS ON THE SOUTHERN SHORES LAKE GARDA
Sirmione Lake Garda
Sirmione is a picturesque town located on the southern shores of Lake Garda. The old castle town is probably the most popular tourist spot in Lake Garda. This beautiful town sits on the very end of a narrow peninsula that juts out 4 km into the waters of Lake Garda.
Sirmione is famous for its stunning Scaliger Castle and the ancient ruins of Grotte di Catullo, a massive Roman villa at the tip of the peninsula. The Church of San Pietro in Movino and The Church of Santa Maria della Neve are also worth visiting. Sirmione has several pebble beaches and the lakeside walk is highly recommended.
Its narrow streets, hidden alleys, colourful buildings, and beautiful promenade along the lake make it a charming place to visit. To fully appreciate this medieval town, you’ll need to spend a good part of a day, or at least half a day.
Sirmione is easily accessible. While cars are not allowed in the castle town, you could park in the nearby parking areas outside the castle walls and walk. It takes 10—15 minutes.
TIP: Plan your day to arrive in Sirmione early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Sirmione gets really busy during the day from 11:00 a.m. onwards. Also, if you are staying at one of the larger lakeside towns, you may want to take a boat to Sirmione and avoid the traffic or the park-and-walk part of your journey.
This short boat trip around the peninsula is really worth taking.
Recommended read: Sirmione Old Town: 14 charms in the quirky castle town, Italy.
Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera is a charming town situated on the southern shores of Lake Garda. This beautiful town is an important transport hub in this region and is famous for its idyllic Venetian-style buildings that line its canals. Home to UNESCO Heritage sites, Roman ruins, bridges and Italy’s famous theme park, Gardaland, Peschiera makes for a good visit. The town’s charming old streets, lively markets, and beautiful lakeside promenade makes Peschiera one of the nicest towns in Lake Garda to visit.
Recommended read: Read this Complete Guide to Peschiera del Garda for a list of good suggestions of what to do in Peschiera during your visit.
Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda is a vibrant town situated on the southern shore of Lake Garda. It is the largest town in Lake Garda with 28,000 inhabitants. Desenzano is known for its beautiful beaches, lively nightlife, and historical sites such as the ancient Roman Villa, Villa Romana. Dotted with bustling piazzas, boutiques, local markets and a great variety of restaurants and cafes.
The archaeological site of the Roman villa which was likely to have been built in the 4th century B.C. features ruins, mosaics and a small Antiquarium. The antiquarium exhibits prehistoric and Brone Age discoveries
The 11th century Castle of Desenzano is very much preserved and offers an incredible coastal view of Lake Garda. There are many beautiful pebble beaches in Desenzano and a favourite one among visitors is Feltrinelli Beach on the northern side of town.
At the heart of the town’s charming historic center, is Piazza Malvezzi built by the Venetians. From here, you can head north to Piazza Duomo and visit the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, boasting baroque architecture and beautiful frescoes.
Desenzano is a popular transport hub. It is the only other town besides Peschiera with a train station on the southern Lake Garda which makes it a popular and easily reached destination. As a result, Desenzano is the starting point of many tours. You could also easily reach the eastern coast by boat from here, including the towns of Lazise, Bardolino or Garda.
PRETTIEST TOWNS ON EASTERN SHORES LAKE GARDA
Malcesine Lake Garda
Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Garda at the foot of Monte Baldo, Malcesine is definitely one of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda not to miss. This picturesque Italian gem exudes an inviting feel to explore with its charming old streets, colourful houses, beautiful harbour, lots of shops, cafes and lively piazzas.
Malcesine is known for Castello Scaligero, a medieval castle where you can climb the tower for magnificent views over Lake Garda. The panoramic cable car ride is another favourite among visitors to this town. When weather permitting, the cable car takes to the top of Monte Baldo affording stunning views of the lake along with the surrounding mountains.
Additional Info: Malcesine is built on a steep terrain and this may cause a challenge for people with restricted mobility.
Bardolino Lake Garda
Bardolino is a small town located on the eastern shore at the foot of the Morainic Hills. This pretty village is a known tourist destination in Lake Garda for its beautiful landscapes, award-winning wines, celebrated olive oil and historic heritage. Bardolino is a perfect escape for peace and tranquility or a relaxing vacation.
The town is famous for its PDO certified Bardolino wine, a red wine made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. Bardolino hosts an annual wine festival in October, which is a great opportunity to sample the local wines.
Though regarded as a town, it exudes an aura of a romantic old village. Surrounded by medieval walls of a 12th century castle, entry to this charming town is via two medieval gates: Porta San Giovanni located in the north of the town and Porta Verona in the south, headed towards the city of Verona. Walking around, you’ll discover tiny alleys that run perpendicular to the coast, taking you back many centuries when this quaint village was once a fishermen’s abode. Views of traditional colourful Italian homes with iron cast balconies overflowing with ivy and bougainvillae are simply inviting.
At the centre of Bardolino is Piazza Matteoti where you’ll find San Severo church towering the whole square. It is a small church, built in the Romanesque style and dating from the 11th century. The church has a beautiful interior and recently restored frescoes. Worth a visit if you are visiting Bardolino.
Garda in Lake Garda
The town of Garda is one of the most beautiful towns located in a splendid bay surrounded by dense green hills on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Garda is known for its beautiful lakeside promenade, medieval architecture, and lively piazzas.
Garda makes a perfect base to explore the region. The town’s ideal location half-way on the eastern shore makes it a perfect spot for exploring the surrounding wine regions easily. Additionally, you can get to the southern lake towns and the northern mountainous region with ease.
The promenade is filled with restaurants, bars and is the pulse of activity day and night especially during the summer. It is also a great place to find a quiet space to people-watch in the midst of a majestic setting.
If you have some time, head to Punta San Vigilio, which is on the east of Garda. You’ll reach the end of the headland, at the foot of Monte Baldo, with absolutely stunning views of the bay and the lake. This is one of the loveliest spots in Lake Garda, affording many photo opportunities.
Garda also offers several opportunities for water sports, such as windsurfing and sailing.
Lazise Lake Garda
Perched on Lake Garda’s eastern shore, Lazise is one of the most picturesque towns and a popular holiday destination in the Veneto region. Lazise has a beautiful waterfront and a historic centre full of character. Home to a 12th century fortress, you enter this fascinating town through a medieval archway where you can explore a maze of alleyways that makes up this pretty town.
Lazise in Italian translates to “city on the lake” has few sandy beaches which makes it a highly sought after tourist resort. The town’s lovely lakeside promenade is full of life at sunset with everyone on their evening stroll.
Lazise is a small town with a pretty harbour, quaint shops, and lots of bars along with restaurants serving up local wines and delicious cuisine.
Torri del Benaco Lake Garda
Torri del Benaco is one of the cutest and most ancient villages that sits on the eastern shores of Lake Garda. This lovely village is small and you don’t really need more than a couple of hours to explore.
Built upon the ruins of a Roman fortress is a beautiful 14th century Scaliger Castle with turrets and battlements from the Middle Ages. This most important landmark in Torri del Benaco has a lemon greenhouse which was built in the 1800s, one of the very few that exists today. Its worth visiting, at least to see the hugely sized lemons.
The town’s historic centre has very narrow alleys, with restaurants and shops. The alleys are lined with medieval buildings and houses. Warm yellow colours and local stone make the houses in this town. Many of these houses are decorated with porticoes and quintessential “Juliet balcony”. An amble through this authentic Italian lakeside village will certainly take you back to the Middle Ages.
One of the best things to do in the medieval village of Torri del Benaco is to walk along the lakeshore. The lakeshore promenade is flat and well-kept. A perfect place to catch the lake views and experience one of the most beautiful views as the sun sets beyond the horizon.
A car ferry connects the town of Torri del Benaco to Maderno on the western shore. This makes a good option to get to or from the town in a convenient and scenic way.
If you decide to drive around Lake Garda, you may want to stop and explore the following authentically traditional villages that offer a glimpse into the region’s medieval past.
San Zeno di Montagna, Lake Garda
Passionately known to the Italians as “the balcony on Lake Garda”, San Zeno di Montagna is a picturesque village tucked in the slopes of Monte Baldo at 680 m (2230 ft) above sea level.
San Zeno offers stunning panoramic views over Lake Garda and magnificent views over the olive groves. With an ideal climate of it never being too humid or too dry, San Zeno is a destination for great outdoor activities where you can trek or bike through the scenic trails of the pine forested slopes of Monte Baldo. A great place to go for walks in the chestnut woods, relax in the midst of fresh mountain air and enjoy the splendid views. If you want to save some time from walking, ride the Costabella Cable car from nearby Prada and relish in the glorious views.
The ancient village of San Zeno has an interesting history. It was once inhabited by a commune of related families and their boundaries were separated by meadows or woods. With the growing popularity of tourism in recent years, the village has seen the construction of hotels and villas, giving it a more unified scene. Walking through
San Zeno, you’ll see stone houses connected by internal passages, accessed by external stairs. The courtyards show shared fountains, stables and barns.
There is a square in the town centre, Piazza Ca’ Schena which is located near the Church of San Zeno, a Romanesque- style church dating to the 11th century. Make a quick stop at the church and take a moment for coffee, giving yourself some time to appreciate the authenticity of this ancient village.
San Zeno di Montagna offers a perfect mix of natural scenic beauty, history and culture, making it an attractive destination to visit in Lake Garda.
Other picturesque ancient villages on the eastern shores of Lake Garda which you may want to visit are Castelletto di Brenzone and Pai. Both villages feature narrow alleys, ancient buildings and jaw-dropping views over Lake Garda.
PRETTIEST TOWNS ON THE WESTERN SHORES LAKE GARDA
The western shore of Lake Garda is known for its citrus groves, olive trees, and charming towns. Here are some of the best towns and villages on the western shores of Lake Garda:
Limone sul Garda
One of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda is situated on the western shore of the lake. Limone sul Garda is simply known as Limone to the Italians. This old town is quaint, picturesque, colourful, and exudes a cosy feel with lots of cafes along with small shops. Limone has an extremely colourful and postcard-perfect waterfront which is worth the trip.
Limone sul Garda is known for its lemon groves, olive trees, and colourful houses. The town’s charming old streets, picturesque harbour, and beautiful promenade along the lake make it a delightful place to visit.
TIP: You can easily combine a visit to Limone, and Malcesine or Riva. You can take the ferry boat from Limone to Malcesine and the journey is not long and the cost is reasonable. If you are driving, Limone has a paid parking facility where you could park, and then take the ferry from here.
Salò Lake Garda
Salò is a pretty and lively town known for its beautiful waterfront, historic heritage and elegant architecture. Sadly, it is often shrouded in a gloomy past.
Salò is linked to the Italian Social Republic, a fascist state actually ruled by Nazis between 1943 and 1945.
An alluring town on the western shores, Salò features picturesque narrow streets, piazzas, elegant shops, lots of trattorias and cafes. The best highlights of this wonderful town are an ancient Cathedral of Salò dating back to the 15th century and an impressive 16th century building in the historic centre which houses a museum.
The Museo Civico di Salò is located in the Palazzo della Magnifica Patria, a beautiful 16th-century building in the heart of Salò’s historic center. The museum houses a collection of art and artifacts that tell the story of Salò’s history, including works by local artists and important historical documents.
Salò has an impressive promenade that extends a full 3km, the longest in Lake Garda. Along the promenade, there are paths leading to smaller villages. The promenade itself leads towards the south of the bay where there are some pebble beaches. Spiaggia delle Rive is one of the most popular beaches in Salò, with crystal-clear waters and stunning lake views.
If you have some time, visit the Vittoriale degli Italiani. This stunning complex of buildings, gardens, and museums is located just outside Salò, in the neighbouring town of Gardone Riviera, just 4 km away (more on this below).
Salò has several markets throughout the week that sell local products and souvenirs. The Mercato Settimanale takes place on Saturdays and offers a wide variety of goods, from fresh produce to clothing and household items.
Salò is a great base for exploring Lake Garda, and there are several boat tours available that depart from the town’s harbour. This town is definitely worth visiting for an immersive experience of art, culture, history and just good fun.
Gardone Riviera Lake Garda
Gardone Riviera is one of the best towns located in Brescia, Lombardy on the western shores of Lake Garda. Renowned for its stunning lakeside location, historic landmarks and beautiful gardens, Gardone Riviera is a popular destination for holidaymakers.
Gardone Riviera is perfectly positioned about a third-way up on the western shore. An ideal location for a good base to facilitate boat travel to other lakeside resorts.
Make time for a visit to the Vittoriale degli Italiani. This large building was the former home of Italian poet and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio who lived in Gardone between 1921 and 1938. The complex features beautiful gardens, ancient ruins, and an impressive collection of art and artifacts. The wings of the house adjoin an open-air theatre, which was inspired by the Greek amphitheatre in Pompeii.
Visit the Heller Botanical Garden that features a wide variety of unusual plants and trees from around the world, as well as stunning lake views and peaceful walking paths. The La Torre di San Marco is a historic tower that dates back to the 14th century. It is located in the town’s historic center and offers stunning views of Gardone Riviera and the surrounding countryside.
The town’s main attraction is its beaches. Gardone Riviera has several beautiful beaches where visitors can relax and enjoy the lake views. The nearest beach front is Casino Beach, located 500m from the town square. Some of the most popular one located nearby include Spiaggia delle Rive and Lido di Fasano.
With restaurants offering special delicious cuisine, including fresh seafood and regional wines along with a range of shops and boutiques, Gardone Riviera makes a favourite town for visitors.
TIP: Find places to stay in Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda
If you decide to drive, stop and explore the following pretty and quaint traditional villages that offer viewing points for absolutely breathtaking views over Lake Garda.
Tremosine is set on a plateau that falls vertically on the west shore of Lake Garda. This pretty town affords breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, as well as its picturesque old town. Tremosine forms part of the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano (also known as the Upper Garda Bresciano Park. More info about this park further below this article). The town is divided into eighteen hamlets sprinkled along the wide territory of the upland and the valleys.
The main attraction in Tremosine is the drive itself that takes you on an unforgetable journey. The Strada della Forra, a branch from the Gardesana loop roadway is a scenic road that winds its way through a narrow gorge with steep cliffs on either side.
In addition to the stunning scenic drive, Tremosine offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and water sports on Lake Garda. The town also has several historic churches and buildings, including the Church of San Giovanni Battista, which dates back to the 16th century.
About Strada della Forra
Strada della Forra (Road of the Gorge) is one of the most scenic drives in the world. This Italian road is located in the town of Tremosine and links Tremosine with the hamlets of Pieve and Vesio. The road starts uphill from the Gardesana Road or downhill from Pieve.
Strada della Forra is a steep, very narrow road nestled in the depths of the mountain, carved out of a cliff with low tunnels, hairpin turns and blind corners. This scenic road is 9.1 km (5.65 miles) long and paved throughout. This journey is best undertaken by a skillful driver, driving a small car with a working horn.
** I’d highly recommend hiring a local driver or a guide for this part of your visit to Lake Garda.
Pieve di Tremosine Lake Garda
If you are considering visiting one of the hamlets in Tremosine, Pieve is worth a visit.
Pieve is a cute village known for its stunning views and beautiful natural surroundings. The village has several viewing points of Lake Garda which affords great views over the lake to Malcesine and Monte Baldo.
To get to Pieve, you need to take the Strada della Forra (mentioned above) up from the Gardasan road, which is a very narrow road. This road is a one-way route and is open daily from 10:00 — 19:00.
TIP: One of the best viewing points in Pieve is from the terrace of Paradiso. If you are not a guest, have a meal or coffee; the views are worth it.
TIP2: Stay at Villa Paradiso Pieve, so you can wake up to the amazing views and clean, fresh mountain air each day. Villa Paradiso is highly rated for cleanliness and one of the most favourable places for great views.
Gargnano Lake Garda
Gargnano is one of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda situated on the western side. The town covers a large area of 78 square kilometres, extending from the lakeshores to the mountains and includes twelve hamlets. Monte Gargnano which is the centre of the town is situated half way up the mountainside and is surrounded by lush olive groves.
The area has many delightful hiking trails that lead to untouched landscapes affording splendid views of Lake Garda.
Monte Gargnano can only be reached by road and makes a good stop if you are driving in Lake Garda. It is possible to take the bus from Brescia, Desenzanodel Garda, Sirmione and Milan. However, buses from Milan are few and you are better off taking the train from Milan to Brescia and the bus from Brescia to Monte Gargnano. The harbour at Gargnano does run a boat service.
James Bond Quantum of Solace and the Gardesana Loop
The James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace opens with a car chase scene along the Gardesana loop road on the eastern shore, north of the village of Malcesine. One of the scenes depicts the character losing control of his Aston Martin and the car crashes into the lake. This is said to have taken place near Limon.
There are various driving scenes in this film and it is said to have taken place between Limone and Riva. Some of the images from the movie are exhibited at the museum in Limone.
About Parco Alto Garda Bresciano
Parco Alto Garda Bresciano (also known as the Upper Garda Bresciano Park) is a nature park. The park covers an area of over 80 square kilometers (31 square miles) on the western shores of Lake Garda, as well as the surrounding mountains and hills.
Known for its stunning natural beauty, with rugged cliffs, deep valleys, and clear blue waters, the park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species such as the peregrine falcon and the Alpine ibex.
If you are keen in exploring this area of Lake Garda, Parco Alto Garda offers many opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and water sports. The towns of Gargnano, Limone sul Garda, and Tremosine mentioned above are all located within this park and offer visitors a chance to explore the wooded hills and experience the local culture and cuisine.
Parco Alto Garda Bresciano is easily accessible by car, bus, or ferry but I suggest a drive would be the most convenient. The park is open year-round, and there are several visitor centers located throughout the park where you can get information about the park’s trails, activities, and attractions.
PRETTIEST TOWNS ON NORTHERN SHORES LAKE GARDA
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is a picturesque town located on the northern shore of Lake Garda. Framed by the Dolomites, Riva is known for its narrow streets, beautiful beaches, medieval architecture, and stunning mountain scenery. The town offers a range of shopping and dining options and makes a lovely day trip on Lake Garda.
As you walk through the historic centre, you’ll note the two medieval city gates in Riva, Porta San Mario and Porta di San Michele. The historic centre is filled with cafes, little shops, colourful streets and piazzas. You’ll find Torre Apponale standing gallantly in Piazza 3 Novembre. This medieval watch tower has 165 wooden steps that will take you to the top for breathtaking views of Riva and Lake Garda. Riva’s medieval fortress, Rocca is surrounded by a moat, has a drawbridge and houses a museu. The museum portrays the history of Riva which is worth visiting.
Take the funicular to the Bastione, remains of a Venetian tower for some spellbinding views of northern Lake Garda. For more panorama, stroll the promenade for one of the best fjord-like views in northern Lake Garda. These are just some of the best things to do in Riva, one of the prettiest towns in Lake Garda.
Riva makes a great base for exploring the Trentino landscape. If you’d like to go on a scenic hiking experience while here, I found this particular activity that offers a guided experience customisable to your skill level which you could look at.
Riva offers several opportunities for water sports, such as windsurfing, sailing, and kiteboarding also.
Canale di Tenno in Trentino
Tucked in the mountains of Trentino overlooking the dazzling blue-waters of Lake Garda, and oblivious to the frenzy world around it is Canale di Tenno, a true hidden gem in Italy that will catapult you a few centuries.
Sitting at 600m above sea level, and about 10 km from Riva del Garda, the hamlet of Canale di Tenno is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy where time has stood still. A perfectly preserved medieval village from the 12th century with ancient walls, houses built from stones, mysterious cobbled alleys, vaulted archways and splendid views of Lake Garda. Surrounded by lush wooded hills, Canale is a perfect spot to indulge in some relaxing walks and the mountain air.
The centre of Canale is a small square with a web of narrow cobbled alleys that opens up into the countryside with spectacular views of Lake Garda. One of the alleys from the square leads to the Artists’ House, Giacomo Vittone, which takes its name from the artist himself who took inspiration from Canale for his many paintings. The Artists’ House hosts exhibitions, conferences and cultural events. It also hosts artists looking for inspiration to stay here for a time in exchange for one of their works.
One of the village’s famous attractions is a historical reenactment that takes place in the first week of August annually. The medieval village festival of ‘Rustico Medioevo’ is an event where a range of entertainment takes place and the whole village participates in the costume party that takes place along its streets.
While Canale di Tenno itself is a hidden gem, there is another which absolutely will blow you away. A half-an-hour walk from the centre of the village takes you to a secluded pristine alpine lake, Lake Tenno. Surrounded by forest and mountains, it’s a tranquil spot where you can swim in the crystal-clear waters, rent a paddle boat or just relax over a picnic on the beach.
The area around Canale di Tenno is perfect for hiking, with numerous trails that offer stunning views of the mountains and valleys. One popular hike is the Sentiero della Cascata, a trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall, Cascate del Varone. Cascate del Varone is a pair of extraordinary waterfalls flowing through a cave. It’s open daily from 9:00 —17:00.
When it comes to what to eat in Canale di Tenno, the village, and the region of Trentino offers something different to the much loved pizza and pasta dishes that Italy is passionately known for. Trentino has a unique mountain culture and is known for its delicious cuisine, and Canale di Tenno is no exception. Be sure to try their local specialities, such as canederli (dumplings), polenta, and carne salada (cured beef).
TIP: If you have more time and really want to be away from the crowds, I’d suggest a few days in the northern part of Italy, the Trentino region. It is much quieter than the southern shores, and offers lots of active and outdoor activities to do at your own pace.
In sum, these are the 17 prettiest villages and towns in Lake Garda which you must see…
- Peschiera del Garda;
- Desenzano del Garda;
- Torri del Benaco;
- San Zeno di Montagna;
- Limone sul Garda;
- Gardone Riviera;
- Pieve di Tremosine;
- Riva del Garda;
- Canale di Tenno.
APPRECIATE LAKE GARDA FROM THE WATERS
A visit to Lake Garda is not complete without a boat trip. You cannot really appreciate the splendour of this magnificent lake if you don’t see it from the waters. The most impressive part of any visit to Lake Garda is to appreciate the coastline and the prettiest towns on the shores from the water. Even if you don’t have the time, or the desire, I’d suggest a short boat trip at the very least. You’ll really be glad that you did.
Water transport in Lake Garda is well served by hydrofoils, catamarans, ferry and private motorboats.
Some of the towns are really close to each other and you could take the hydrofoil for a fast journey and save some time. If you prefer, take the hop-on hop-off ferry to get to these places.
Hydrofoils run a favourable schedule during the high season from the lafger towns of Sirmione, Peschiera, Desenzano and other towns.
Car ferries are a good option to get to/from the eastern and western shores. Services run between Toscolano Maderno and Torri del Benaco as well as between Limone and Malcesine.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
- Take the ferry from Limone or Malcesine to Riva del Garda for one of the most dramatic scenery ever, of secluded bays surrounded by soaring mountains;
- Hop on the ferry at Torri del Benaco to Maderno for a quick visit from the eastern to western shores of Lake Garda;
- The ferry ride from Sirmione to Salò is also worth considering.
TRADITIONAL ITALIAN MARKETS IN LAKE GARDA
Lake Garda towns are famous for their traditional Italian markets. These are not just food markets. You can buy a range of items including clothes, household items, antiques, shoes, souvenirs and fresh produce. There is a good deal of markets that pop up around the villages and towns but I have collated some of the more popular markets in Lake Garda for you. I chose these markets as they take place in the prettiest towns in Lake Garda. You can visit these markets at the same time you visit the towns. However, note that these markets are held earlier in the day, so you need to get there in the mornings.
Peschiera del Garda Market takes place every Monday from 8am to 1pm in Piazza S. Marco.
Sirmione has a weekly market every Monday from 8am to 1pm. The market is held in the historic center.
Desenzano del Garda Market takes place every Tuesday from 8am to 1pm in Piazza Matteotti.
Canale di Tenno has a small weekly market every Tuesday from 8am to 1pm. The market is held in the town center.
Lazise Market is on every Wednesday from 8am to 1pm in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
Riva del Garda‘s market day is on Wednesday from 8am to 1pm. The market is held in the town center and takes place on the 2nd and 4th week of the month.
Bardolino Market is on every Thursday from 8am to 1pm in Piazza Matteotti.
Malcesine has a weekly market every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. The market takes place in the town center.
PLACES TO STAY IN LAKE GARDA
As a top holiday destination, Lake Garda features some of the very best in accommodations with a view. Properties overlooking the glistening waters, framed by the Dolomites and neat olive groves are just some of the prettiest places you could stay in Europe. You can find charming guesthouses, B&Bs along with converted villas and grand hotels including top range spa hotels. Apartments hotels and farmhouses are particularly popular as well.
There are plenty of good value accommodations to be found at any of the above mentioned prettiest towns. Use the link below and filter the towns you wish to stay at and book your stay. As you may already know, good quality hotels at a popular place like Lake Garda get booked-up quickly and a couple of seasons ahead at the least. Ensure that you book yours early enough to save time and disappointment.
Booking is my go to site for all of my travel accommodation and I recommend them wholeheartedly for some of the very best places to stay in Lake Garda.
Go here to find places to stay in Lake Garda.
THINGS TO DO ON YOUR LAKE GARDA TRIP
Lake Garda simply has too much to see and do, and it’s not just about the prettiest towns or taking a boat ride. So much so that even a week or two may not be enough to see and experience everything there is.
Our time in Lake Garda was not nearly enough as we were sightseeing other regions in northern Italy also. We found that adding a couple of tours to our itinerary helped our time to be better managed and we got to see a lot more than we would otherwise have. If you feel guided tours will help you see more during your stay, take a look at the day trips below. Adding a couple of short tours to your itinerary will surely make your vacation in Lake Garda even more special.
Cruise the southern part of Lake Garda. See all the highlights that the southern shores are famed for and swim in the clear waters of Lake Garda. Includes light lunch.
Day tours from Lake Garda
A full day tour is always rewarding as you get to experience a lot more and the huge plus is that you can sit back and relax and let someone else do the driving for you. In addition, your guide points out all the highlights which you’d want to see so you could cross-off the destination in your life-list.
For a personalised experience
If you have more time, go on one of the longer tours below for a dedicated experience and discovery of some of these amazing towns in Lake Garda:
TRAVEL TIPS FOR LAKE GARDA
When visiting Lake Garda, make sure to also add Verona to your itinerary. Go here for my complete guide to Verona which includes some really nice things to do besides Juliet’s balcony.
Also Milan. This fashionable city is not too far from Lake Garda and easily reached which is more than worth a trip. My guide to Milan in one day includes some of the top things to do and places to eat.
Another unmissable destination in the northern region of Italy is Lake Como. If you don’t have much time, you can explore Lake Como in a day from Milan. To fully appreciate Lake Como, you really need to spend a few days. If you can allocate more time, I recommend that you explore some of the best towns in Lake Como which are worth your time. You can also find the best ways to travel around Lake Como with or without a car to help you figure out how best to explore.
I guess that is all I have on this guide to the prettiest towns in Lake Garda. As already mentioned, most towns in Lake Garda are easy to get to. If you take the boat, you can visit a few towns in a day. The boat trip to the northern shores (Riva) is one not to miss. While Sirmione in the southern shores is a must visit destination, Limone is also a stunning town which should feature high on a Lake Garda itinerary. If you can only visit one destination in Lake Garda, make it Malcesine, which I think is the prettiest of the towns in Lake Garda.
Exploring the hillside towns can be a little tricky if you are not driving as public transportation is less frequent. In this case, you could hire an experienced guide or driver to take you. These hidden gems are so worth the journey and time.
The water transportation runs a good schedule, but these are seasonal. Ensure that you check their off seasonal timetable if you plan to travel during the shoulder or winter season.
Have a great time exploring the hidden gems and the prettiest towns in Lake Garda.
Just one more thing. Before you go, take a look at my travel tips about other Italian destinations, just in case you plan to visit these places also.
Italy Travel Inspiration
Renowned as an A-lister’s paradise, and a favourite for every day travellers also, Lake Como truly is a destination not to miss. In the following guides, I share my experiences about places to visit, hidden charms and things to do in Lake Como along with where to stay and how to explore with or without a car:
The below articles about Milan and Verona are in-depth guides, with information and tips which are designed to support your travels to Italy so you can explore by yourself. Take a look.